FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Bucket List: Vietnam’s Cu Chi Tunnels

by Victoria Abbott Riccardi

Feb 1, 2017
February 2017

VIETNAM’S CU CHI TUNNELS attest to the extraordinary resourcefulness and resilience of a group of Southern Vietnamese people, known as the Viet Cong, during their struggle to fight and survive the Vietnam War. Located just outside Ho Chi Minh City in the region of Cu Chi, the tunnels enabled the Viet Cong to survive underground during this historic conflict which broke out in 1954, pitting the Communist Viet Minh party of North Vietnam and its southern allies, known as the Viet Cong, against the non- Communist faction of South Vietnam and its main ally, the United States.

Two sites — Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc — allow visitors to view and even crawl through the tunnels, which the Communist forces built over the course of 20 years. To view either one, the easiest method is to have your hotel arrange a tour out of Ho Chi Minh City. You can be picked up at your hotel, taken to the site and returned later that day — the tunnels lie about 20 and 30 miles outside of Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll want to wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.

Rifle exposed in the Cu Chi tunnel park

Rifle exposed in the Cu Chi tunnel park © MIRKO VITALI | DREAMSTIME.COM

Because the tunnels of Ben Dinh lie closer to Ho Chi Minh City, they’re the most popular to visit. Your guided tour begins with a short film explaining the historical background of the tunnels. It’s worth knowing before you get down on your hands and knees that the original region of Cu Chi was thick with rubber plantations supplying a French tire company. Apparently, the area’s first tunnels were dug in the 1940s by the anti-colonial Viet Minh to store their arms during their struggle for independence from the French. The Viet Cong greatly expanded the network, easily dug from the area’s compacted red clay. However, as you’ll learn from your guide (or supplementary reading), all the ceilings of the tunnels had to be reinforced, ideally with wood. But since American bombing of the area reduced the availability of timber, the Viet Cong ended up using iron fence posts from enemy bases.

Within the multistory tunnels — some were four levels deep — the Viet Cong lived for weeks, even years. The tunnels had sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, schools, kitchens, wells and latrines, as well as makeshift hospitals. Surgeons operated by torch light using rudimentary instruments, and a patient’s own blood was deposited in a bottle and then pumped back into the body using a bicycle pump and rubber hosing.

Although the tunnels had vent shafts to disperse cooking smoke, not surprisingly the passages could become extremely hot and foul-smelling. Inhabitants also had to fight off bats, snakes, scorpions, centipedes and fire ants. The Viet Cong used some of these creatures as weapons, setting up boxes of scorpions and hollow bamboo sticks filled with vipers in areas of the tunnels the enemy (mainly American forces) might enter. Flooding in the tunnels was a constant risk, as was disease, particularly malaria. Hidden trap doors provided release points for the inhabitants, who would leave the tunnels to fight and hunt for food (mainly roots and leaves, since American chemical weapons and bombs destroyed most of the Viet Cong’s rice paddies and fruit crops). After an attack, the Vietnamese fighters disappeared into the tunnels, eluding their American enemy. The Viet Cong not only used the tunnels as living quarters but also as hideouts and routes to transport communications and supplies. For tunnel inhabitants who stayed underground for extended amounts of time, the darkness was so intense, when they finally exited they suffered temporary blindness.

A booby trap with bamboo spikes at the tunnels

A booby trap with bamboo spikes at the tunnels © TUAYAI | DREAMSTIME.COM

American soldiers knew about the tunnels and tried to flush out the enemy. In addition to using bulldozers and defoliant sprays, American soldiers crawled down into the tunnels with hand grenades or gas bombs. The tunnels, however, were often so low and narrow American soldiers could not get down them, let alone scurry through them. Indeed, as you make your way through the labyrinth of dirt passageways (many of which have been widened to accommodate the larger girth of visiting tourists), you’ll sense immediately how dark, dirty and claustrophobic they feel, even after only 10 minutes. As you might imagine, the tunnels open to visitors only represent a fraction of the 155-mile-long and 30-mile-wide network.

More than 3 million people perished during the war; half were Vietnamese civilians. In 1973 President Richard Nixon ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. In 1975 the war ended when Communist forces took control of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and renamed the country the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the following year.

Years after the war, the Vietnamese government created a war memorial park that included the Cu Chi tunnels, where more than 45,000 Vietnamese were said to have died. In 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened to the public in Washington, D.C., inscribed with the 57,939 names of American armed forces killed or missing during the war.

Info to Go

Many airlines fly daily from the United States to Vietnam, including Korean Air, Cathay Pacific and American Airlines. Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat Airport (SGN) lies approximately 20 minutes by car outside the city center, and regulated taxis remain the most reliable, convenient and popular form of transportation to get you to your hotel. Alternatively, you can arrange in advance with your hotel to have a car meet you at the airport.


FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.


Insta Feed

Goway Offers Travelers Journey of a Lifetime

Since 1970, Goway Travel has been committed to providing customized travel experiences for world travelers. Few things are better evidence of this commitment than being awarded the 2019 Trazees award for Favorite Tour Operator. Goway Travel heartily thanks the readers of Trazee Travel for this honor and for their confidence in Goway’s work in creating travel memories that’ll last a lifetime.

Jan 17, 2020

Rosewood Hotels and Resorts Launches New Experiences

Guests staying in Rosewood properties in 2020 should be on the lookout for limited-edition experiences properties are preparing for guests.

Jan 17, 2020

Delta will Move Beijing Flights to New Daxing Airport

Delta Air Lines will move all Beijing flights from Capital Airport (PEK) to the new Daxing Airport (PKX) by March.

Earn and Redeem with oneworld

oneworld is an alliance of 13 world-leading airlines committed to providing the highest level of service and connecting you to more than 1,100 destinations around the world.

Jan 17, 2020

My Emirates Pass Returns for 2020

Emirates boarding passes act as My Emirates Passes through March 31. A My Emirates Pass gives passengers benefits and discounts at leisure destinations across the United Arab Emirates and more than 500 retailers. The pass provides passengers with as much as up to 50 percent savings in some instances, including at hotel spas and fine-dining restaurants.

January 2020
Jan 15, 2020

All in the Family

ON A BEAUTIFUL NEW YORK CITY EVENING, the team at FXExpress Publications, Inc., encompassing Global Traveler, trazeetravel.com and whereverfamily.com, took in the sweeping views on offer at City Vineyard at Pier 26 to celebrate the Wherever Awards, the awards for the best in family travel as deemed by the readers of whereverfamily.com.

Athens: A city that charms its guests and stirs their emotions

The city took its name from Athena, goddess of wisdom, strategy and war, and protector of the city. The financial, political and administrative center of the country and an all-powerful city-state in antiquity, Athens is a major center of culture. A visit to the first-ever museum dedicated to Byzantium, a stroll around the National Garden and a trip to the Olympeion archaeological site will take you back through time.

eFlyer Deals
Jan 15, 2020

Explore Asia in Luxury

Guests are eligible for massive savings when they book their Shanghai stay directly with the hotel online.